Rafael Nadal, owner of two Olympic gold medals, recently parroted arguably the most famous moment in Spanish Olympic history.
Nadal and Marc Lopez, the 2016 Olympic doubles champions, took up bows and arrows and joined archer Antonio Rebollo on Monday at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Stadium. It brought back memories of Rebollo’s unforgettable cauldron lighting from the only Olympics held in Spain.
Nadal is in Barcelona for an ATP Tour event as he prepares to vie for a 10th French Open title next month.
Rebollo, now 61 years old, was one of 200 hundred archers considered to light the cauldron in 1992. He learned that he was chosen for the role over four other finalists two hours ahead of time, according to an NBC Olympics profile in 1996.
The cauldron would be 195 feet away. Fearing Rebollo would miss the target, organizers instructed him to fire his arrow beyond the stadium walls. As the arrow soared, a technician lit the natural gas flame with a remote control.
The illusion worked. The true story wasn’t revealed for another 20 years.
“There were no fears,” Rebollo, a Barcelona native who contracted polio at age 8, told NBC two decades ago. “I was practically a robot. I focused on my positioning and reaching the target. That was all. … My feelings were taken from the people who described to me how they saw it. What they felt, their emotions, their cries. This is what made me realize what the moment actually meant.”
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Matt Stutzman, the U.S. Paralympic archer born without arms profiled across major media, is already looking ahead after being eliminated in the round of 16 by one point in Rio.
“Next up is Tokyo 2020, and that’s what I have to start thinking about,” Stutzman, 33, said following a 142-141 loss on Wednesday after placing fourth overall in the ranking round. “Days like today, they happen.”
Four years ago, Stutzman qualified as the top seed into the London Paralympic bracket rounds and took silver, losing in the final against Finland’s Jere Forsberg, who competed in a wheelchair but with both arms.
On Wednesday, Stutzman finished three wins shy of a medal. He said before his elimination that his aim next year is able-bodied archery.
“In the U.S. you have to decide to shoot para- or able-bodied archery. You can’t do both,” he said, according to World Archery. “I want to make the World Cup team, shoot with Reo [Wilde] and [three-time Olympic medalist] Brady [Ellison] and those guys. My focus next year is able-bodied archery. So I won’t be doing para events next year. To be the best I have to shoot with the best in the world. Not that people here aren’t good, because they’re excellent, but my goals are World Cups, baby.”
Stutzman competes in compound archery at the Paralympics, and though only recurve is done at the Olympics, other international able-bodied competitions include both compound and recurve.
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Four years after suffering a stunning defeat in the Round of 32, American archer Brady Ellison redeemed himself in Rio.
After falling in the semifinal round to eventual gold medalist Ku Bon-chan of South Korea Ellison bounced back, beating Sjef van den Berg of the Netherlands to take bronze. Ellison completed the win in four sets, winning those by scores of 27-26, 26-27, 30-28 and 28-25 to take a 6-2 victory (archers are awarded two points for a set win, one apiece for a tie).
The individual bronze is Ellison’s second medal of these Olympics, as he, Zach Garrett and Jake Kaminski combined to take silver in the team competition.
The gold medal match between Ku and France’s Jean-Charles Valladont went five sets, with Ku winning by the final tally of 7-3. After Ku won the first two sets Valladont bounced back with scores of 29 in each of the next two sets, making the score 5-3 heading into the fifth set. Ku would win that set 27-26, thus clinching his first individual Olympic gold medal after taking gold in the team competition.